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Students on fire with Hobbit animation raking in 30,000 online views

Students on fire with Hobbit animation raking in 30,000 online views

After an arduous journey spread over 13 weary weeks, 11 Dundonian mere mortals come to the end of their quest clutching their spoils of war.

And by spoils, we mean a 30-second fire-breathing dragon animation.

Duncan of Jordanstone postgraduate students recently completed a project on JRR Tolkien's legendary novel The Hobbit, exploring the origins of Middle Earth's dragons.

Before we go any further, take a peek at what they came up with.

So far, their Concerning Dragons clip has raked in over 30,000 views online - not bad for your average MSc course assignment.

As well as Tolkien fans everywhere, the footage is a big hit with Axis Animation studios in Glasgow who set the MSc project brief.

We caught up with some of the students behind the project, including 23-year-old Rebecca Paul. She took us through the team's artistic influences...

via STV via STV

"We took a lot of inspiration from Tolkien's maps - the appearance is very much paper-based," said Rebecca.

"We wanted to keep it consistent with his style while bringing it into a 3D space.

"A few people have said it looks like the opening credits for Game of Thrones but we actually didn't look at that.

"We did however look at the animated scene in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows that tells the story of the three brothers."

  (DJCAD Msc animation and visualisation dept)
via STV via STV

For 30-seconds of footage, you'd think 11 people would be able to churn that out in no time, dragons or no dragons.

Well, you'd be wrong.

"Projects like this are really time consuming," explained Rebecca.

"For the past 13 weeks we've been in uni all day working on it surrounded by the team - and I think we had a really strong, diverse group.

"When I started the project I certainly didn't know as much detail as I do now - although I'd say I'm definitely a Tolkien fan."

via STV via STV

We also managed to catch the 24-year-old director of the film, Kieran Duncan.

"The brief was set to coincide with the Hobbit films," said Kieran.

"We were tasked to create an animation that could essentially run alongside that, like a scene from the book not in the film or a characters back story.

"It was a challenge to get the team on the same page at first since not everyone had seen the film or read the book.

"I had a prop-replica map that we used for reference to drive the art style."

via STV via STV

After Benedict Cumberbatch brought Tolkien's dragon villain to life in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, it's pretty easy to see why the students chose this character study.

Kieran explained: "We decided to explore the origins of the dragons because it's never really explained in the films or the book.

"We had to do a lot of research to find different theories - the evolution from the eagle story is one of the more discredited theories, but it's the one we found most interesting."

  (DJCAD Msc animation and visualisation dept)
via STV via STV

Kieran, a Tolkien enthusiast himself, gave us an idea of the group's findings after hours of research.

He continued: "Tolkien's early dragons didn't have wings at all - which is something a lot of the die-hard fans have pointed out online.

"But we're very much in it as a creative endeavour rather than a true representation of Tolkien's work.

"I'm a massive fan myself as well as a few others in the class - we're all well aware we were taking some liberties with the source material."

  (DJCAD Msc animation and visualisation dept)
via STV via STV

As it turns out, the team's popularity isn't just measured in Vimeo views.

"We've had praise from the Tolkien Society on various places online," said Kieran.

"Earlier this week it was put up on theoneright.net which is one of the big Tolkien fans sites.

"The society said they really appreciated the attention to detail and the artistic style we used - even the town names we used were from Tolkien's universe.

"The reaction form Axis Animation was very positive - they had a few minor suggestions but I think overall they were impressed.

"The were keen to see how our creative process compared to how they operate in-house and how we could learn from each other.

"After this, I'd definitely love to do an extension on the dragon's tale - we just need to find someone crazy enough to fund us."

After the success of Tolkien tribute, who knows if this is the last we'll see of the Duncan of Jordanstone MSc team?

We asked if there was any sign of a follow up but sadly, they're leaving the trilogies to Peter Jackson.

  (DJCAD Msc animation and visualisation dept)
via STV via STV

Fancy featuring on our @STVDundee app? Get in touch by emailing mary.mccool@stv.tv

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